In an effort to reduce the number of accidental opioid overdoses, Vancouver police officers and support staff will soon be armed with nasal Naloxone.
“Our front line officers and support staff are coming into contact with highly toxic opioid drugs like fentanyl on an increasing basis,” Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said in a release.
“It is essential that we provide our staff with the medication that would be necessary in the event of an accidental exposure to toxic substances.”
Naloxone blocks or reverses the effects of opioids such as fentanyl and is used to treat an overdose in an emergency situation. In July, Health Canada approved the lifesaving drug naloxone in the form of a nasal spray.
“I’ve heard of three law enforcement officers throughout the province… not in Vancouver… where they have come into contact with fentanyl and have required medical attention,” Acting VPD Sgt. Brian Montague said.
“At least two of those they’ve needed naloxone due to an overdose due to an exposure at work.”
The initial cost to supply the VPD with nasal naloxone is about $75,000 and while the department doesn’t have the money for it, Montague said they’ll find it.
This announcement by the Vancouver Police Department comes on the heels of a report by the B.C. Coroners stating that accidental drug overdoses are still climbing in B.C. in 2016.
According to the coroners’ data, in 2016, the total number of drug overdose deaths was 433, which is an increase of almost 74 per cent in comparison to the same seven-month time frame in 2015.
The total number of overdose deaths in July was 52, which was down from the 61 deaths in June. But the coroners’ statistics show that in the first six months of 2016, 62 per cent of the overdose deaths involved fentanyl and that 96 per cent of the cases, other illicit drugs were also found in the fentanyl. In particular, cocaine being the most popular additive.
The statistics also show that Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria were the top three cities for illicit drug overdoses between 2007 and 2016. Year-to-date, Vancouver recorded 78, Surrey 55 and Victoria 34 deaths, respectively.
In August, Vancouver’s supervised injection site expanded its hours to deal with the crisis of overdose deaths.